Public Education

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Too often public education is debated on the narrow terrain of what individuals already hold true. The late University of California anthropologist John Ogbu was invited by concerned parents of the middle-class black community in Shaker Heights, Ohio to help ascertain why some black students in their highly regarded suburban school system were "disengaged" from academic work and performed below their white counterparts. He concluded that "the black students' own cultural attitudes hindered academic achievement and that these attitudes are too often neglected." Ogbu was vilified largely in the black community for his findings and praised largely by conservatives as proof positive of their claims -- a gross oversimplification on both sides. My fear is that University of California Professor W. Norton Grubb's latest book, "The Money Myth: School Resources, Outcomes, and Equity (Russell Sage Foundation, 2009)," may risk being placed in the same oversimplified box as Ogbu's work for the convenience of debate. Those who argue for greater resources for public education will undoubtedly differ with the premise they prematurely attach to Grubb's work, which focuses primarily on high school education. Likewise, those opposed to additional money will see this as another clear example that sides with their thesis. Both sides only prove the importance of actually reading the material that is not nearly as black and white as either side wants to make it. For Grubb, the question: "Can money buy quality education?" is one that takes too broad of a view. His work suggests that money is at the very least overrated, and by itself unrelated to student achievement. "Dollar bills don't educate kids and we have to figure out what does educate kids," he said. "There are some resources that actually do cost money. In my results, the adult-pupil ratio in high school makes a difference. That is not a class-size measure -- it is a measure of the number of adults around; it really measures...
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